Chris Loder MP, Conservative Member of Parliament for West Dorset and a member of the Transport Select Committee, has made a ‘virtual’ site visit with four rail industry organisations to find out how the rail network is moving key workers and resources while keeping workers safe on site and supporting the NHS efforts to tackle Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Together, the organisations, ranging from multinational to small and medium enterprises (SME), showed how the rail industry is working as a united front to help the UK through the crisis.
The four organisations he met with were:
- Balfour Beatty, which spoke about its work with Network Rail on the Kilsby Tunnel, on the West Coast main line;
- Ricardo Rail, a specialist in engineering solutions for rail as well as other sectors that has turned its attention to producing vital PPE, including protective face shields for key workers in hospitals and care homes;
- Movement Strategies, an SME that specialises in people movement and location insights and has the vital skillsets required to enable safe travel in the era of social distancing; and
- Network Rail, the national infrastructure owner, which is continuing to deliver work on the Wessex route, whilst maintaining social distancing guidance.
The MP’s virtual visit was part of the Rail Fellowship Programme, an initiative established in 2018 by the Railway Industry Association (RIA), which brings politicians onto rail sites to help them develop an understanding of the on-the-ground workings of the industry. The Fellowship Programme is an important mechanism for ensuring that politicians are in touch with key issues and the workings of the industry.
While traditional visits are not possible due to Coronavirus, RIA has adapted the programme to suit today’s situation by running it ‘virtually’ at a time when constructive dialogue between politics and industry is more essential than ever.
Following his visits, Chris Loder said: “It was great to take part in the Railway Industry Association’s Rail Fellowship Programme today and to be the first MP to take part in a ‘virtual visit’.
“I really appreciated the insights from companies across the industry as to how the railway is dealing with Coronavirus and the level of innovation to enable the railway to start the return to normal.
“I very much look forward to going out on site in the future.”
Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association, said: “Rail suppliers are working hard to support the UK in addressing the Coronavirus outbreak, ensuring we can get key workers and resources to where they need to be, supporting the NHS’s efforts by manufacturing PPE, examining how transport can adapt for a post-Coronavirus future, and ensuring we are one of the key sectors spearheading the UK economic recovery in the months ahead.
“The RIA Rail Fellowship Programme is as vital as ever in these times, in providing rail suppliers with a platform to show what they do. So, we’re really pleased to host our first virtual visit and to show Chris Loder the incredible work our members are doing.”
Commenting on this first ‘virtual’ visit in the Programme, Alan Atkins, Balfour Beatty alliance director for the Central Rail System Alliance, said: “We are pleased to be part of the RIA Rail Fellowship Programme as a platform to demonstrate the capabilities and expertise of our teams when delivering complex projects whilst putting the passenger first.”
Simon Babes, director of analytics at Movement Strategies, the only SME included in the visit, added: “Delivering a resilient public transport network has never been so complex as it is today.
“New approaches to demand management and operational planning, underpinned by good data and analysis, will be critical to the delivery of a safe and efficient service, helping to rebuild the economy.
“We are proud to be making significant contributions to this effort.”